Through reading the work of Dr. Alan Wolfelt, specifically, “The PTSD Solution: The Truth About Your Symptoms and How To Heal,” I have become familiar with the concept that an aspect of Post-Traumatic Stress is “Complicated Grief.”
Complicated; because there are many elements and a lot of depth to this grief. The one most people are familiar with is, of course, the loss of friends, buddies or comrades—call them what you will.
But there is another loss behind all of those, and that is the loss of the person we used to be.
It could be said that is one of the most difficult losses of all. For no matter how close you come to another human being, we began this life with ourselves—and to lose something that is such an integral part of our own self is akin to having part of our soul cut away.
Many people do not want to perceive grief in this manner. For many, what might have been is a place they don’t want to go, and who can blame them? The person you used to be is gone—and the person you might have been, had you not went to war, is someone you will never meet. In this situation, grief can occur in the hints of what that life might have looked like had we not gone to war.
For those of us that experience grief in this manner, it is an echo of what we have lost.
And along those lines, there are times when we as humans are privileged to encounter profound thoughts and ideas. I had one of those experiences a few days ago when I read “5 Things Grief Would Say If It Could Speak” from Monique Minahan.
When I saw the title of the post, I wondered what would the conversation with grief would look like, and Monique’s insightful writing expanded on the experience of grief in a compassionate, understanding and beautiful way. I was deeply affected–as I read further, I saw where much of what she had written fit in the spaces in the history of my own life.
A lot of people don’t want to deal with grief; or in an attempt to remain strong, many people do not acknowledge their grief. For some people, the grief of others can be too much for some people to bear. As a result, so many people hide grief away—not only for their own emotional well-being, but to try not to make other people uncomfortable. Quite often, we are uncomfortable not only with our own grief, but that of others. When we see another person experiencing grief, how much of our aversion is really an instinctive turning away?
Does this aversion take place because we are fundamentally aware of the nature of life, and we know that while it may not be us grieving at that moment, our turn is coming?
The experience of grief is to acknowledge one of the givens of our existence: To love is to lose. Behind every “Love Story for the Ages” are people that lived, loved and lost in the one lifetime we are all granted, and often, it is the grief of the one left behind that frames the narrative:
When it comes to love and loss, you cannot have one without the other.
Grief can intrude in our lives when we least expect it to, disturbing whatever equilibrium we may have reached regarding whatever losses we might have sustained in life. The intensity of grief seems to hijack our minds, and this loss of control over our emotional state is often not well received in a culture where everyone is supposed to either be happy or in the pursuit of happiness.
But to experience grief is not to wallow in self-pity. Our lives consist mainly of what we mean to others—and what those others mean to us. And to grieve someone or something is to believe that what a person might have lost was worth knowing or having in the first place.
In essence, grief is an acknowledgement of meaning, and that is worth a little emotion.
Like I said, I was deeply affected by Monique’s writing, and as I read, I wondered if grief could speak, would I want to hear what it had to tell me? After all that I’ve been through, and all the people I have known, I think I would:
Because if my grief could speak, it would whisper in the voices of all those I have lost.
Thank you, Monique Minahan, for your beautiful words.